Duke Edges Syracuse 66-60
Round one went to Syracuse, and round two went to Duke. Syracuse-Duke has the potential to be an incredible rivalry in the ACC, with some incredible games. On February 1, Syracuse defeated Duke 91-89 in OT. Last night, Duke defeated Syracuse 66-60. Both great games, and both came down to crucial calls at the end of the game.
In Syracuse, Jabari Parker's fifth foul was questionable, as well as Christmas' block on Rodney Hood at the end of OT. Both calls went in Syracuse's favor, and the Orange went on to win. Last night in Durham, Michael Gbinije took a charge on Jabari Parker, which was called a block. The second blown call was the most disputed one. CJ Fair drove baseline off a Tyler Ennis pass, made the layup and was called for an offensive foul. At live speed it looked like a block, and after watching the replay it still looked like a block. Coach Boeheim ran out onto the floor arguing and ripping his suit coat off, and was immediately ejected after receiving two technical fouls. With 10.4 seconds left, Duke hit 3-of-4 FTs and was awarded the ball. The game was virtually over after the charge call, and Boeheim's two technical fouls didn't help Syracuse's cause.
After the game was over, Coach Boeheim referred to the call as "the world call of the season" and he "hated to see the game decided on that call." With that said, the Orange had multiple opportunities to win the game. Syracuse went 2-for-9 from 3-point range, and had only two players over 9 points. Jerami Grant, who was suffering from back spasms, finished with 17 points and 8 rebounds. He also fouled out with under 10 seconds to go with the game out of reach. CJ Fair had 12 points, on 6-of-12 shooting from the floor. Former Blue Devil, and current Syracuse Orange Michael Gbinije had 8 points in the first half, but was held scoreless in the second half. Trevor Cooney went MIA for most of the game, finishing with 4 points (2-2 FTs). Tyler Ennis had his worst game of the season, finishing with 4 points and 6 assists on 2-of-13 shooting.
A huge problem for the Orange was foul trouble. Rakeem Christmas picked up two quick fouls in the first half and Baye Keita had three fouls in the first half. Early in the second half, Rakeem picked up two quick fouls, along with Keita committing his fourth. Both Christmas and Keita were on the bench for significant minutes while Jerami Grant played the '5'. Freshman F Tyler Roberson did not play (coaches decision). Despite the foul trouble, Syracuse out rebounded Duke 37-34.
Duke freshman Jabari Parker finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Rodney Hood finished with 13 points, and was extremely effective on the high-post in the second half for Duke.
Syracuse fell to 25-2, 12-2 in ACC play. Despite the loss, the Orange still control their own destiny for the ACC regular season title. If SU wins out, they'll be the regular season ACC champions. Virginia is currently 14-1 in the ACC, and 1 1/2 games up from the Orange.
Whether you believe it was a block or a charge at the end of the game is almost irrelevant. Syracuse had countless opportunities throughout the game where that play shouldn't have even happened. Many put back lay-ups and dunks were missed in the first half, as well as numerous 8-to-10 footers. Early on, it looked like the Orange weren't going to have any trouble scoring. Going into the game the Orange knew they would have a lot of possessions, which would lead to more chances to score and more shots. SU led 12-10 at the 16:00 timeout, scoring most of their baskets in transition. The 2-3 zone was incredibly active, forcing steals and traps early in the game.
Coach K is one of the best in the business, on and off the court. One thing I will never understand is his strategy when he attacks the 2-3 zone against Syracuse. In both games he has put Jefferson and Plumlee at the high-post. Don't get me wrong, Jefferson and Plumlee are very good players, but not at the high-post. Neither player turns to the basket with the intention to score, only to pass. This forces Christmas, Keita, or Grant (whoever is playing the middle) to sit back and dare them to shoot. With Duke's talent, there's no reason they don't have a scorer at the high-post. Why Coach K didn't put Jabari Parker or Rodney Hood there earlier in the game, and the first game on February 1, is over my head. When Hood moved to the high-post late in the second half, Duke was a different team offensively. It forced the middle of the zone to shift up, which opened up the backdoor pass and also led to easy 15 foot jump shots for Hood.
In my opinion, two of the biggest factors to the game was the guard play and the foul trouble. With Keita and Christmas both on the bench in the second half with 4 fouls, Grant was forced to play the middle while playing through back spasms. It's obvious the Orange are light at center with DaJuan Coleman out for the season. It's also very understandable that Keita and Christmas will both pick up fouls, but my problem with Keita's foul trouble was that two of the four he had were offensive. Baye was called for a charge and an illegal screen. I love Keita, and I think he's a great role player for the zone. However, there is absolutely no reason he should be putting himself in a position to pick up an offensive foul, let alone two. With the lack of big-man depth, those are the fouls that Syracuse needs to avoid.
Cooney and Ennis were combined 3-for-18, for 8 points. If you plan on beating Duke at Cameron Indoor, the guards need better numbers than that. Plain and simple. If Cooney continues to struggle to get open, there's no reason for him to be in the game. It's that simple. Michael Gbinije played very good minutes for SU. Gbinije is a more athletic guard that can handle the ball much better than Trevor can. I understand Cooney is the best shooter on the team, but he isn't a factor if he can't get open shots. He's more of a burden. I like his defense, and his ability to get steals. He desperately needs a bounce back game Monday night, in a must-win game for the Orange. If Trevor struggles early on Monday night, expect to see a lot of Michael Gbinije.
While the Orange control their own destiny, it won't be easy. Syracuse still has to travel to Maryland, Virginia, and Florida State. The final home game will be on March 4, when the Orange host Georgia Tech on senior night.
Syracuse has two games this week: Monday at Maryland (7:00pm ET on ESPN) and Saturday at No. 14 Virigina (4:00pm ET on ESPN).